I’ve been asked this question a lot in recent months, so let’s discuss – what importance does a social media presence have in becoming an actor?
No one’s going to give you a straight answer.
Mainly because – and this is the same for everything in this industry – having or not having one doesn’t promise anything. It doesn’t guarantee that something amazing will or won’t happen.
Put yourself in a producer’s shoes, for a moment. Getting financing is extremely difficult. People invest in movies because they want to make money. Yes, it’s an enjoyable industry, or this particular subject hits home for them, but most of the time – they want to make money. They’re essentially gambling on a storyteller reaching a lot of people.
Now – if you have someone who wants to be in the movie, that has a large following on social media, that means there are a lot of people who will potentially spend money to see this movie. If you’re proud of a project you have, the greatest desire is to have it be seen. It doesn’t matter how amazing your movie is, if no one sees it. And knowing this person’s social platform reaches a lot of people, means more people will see it. So now you have a bigger audience, and it also gives investors an incentive to spend more money to make this product, which means you have a bigger budget to make the project you want. Or perhaps hiring this person reaches an audience that you wouldn’t otherwise reach. That’s an untapped market, which gets investors excited.
Can you see how someone might get hired, then, because of a social following? If I hire this person, they may not be the best person for the role, but they’ll do fine, and it means I’ll have more money to spread elsewhere in the project, and a bigger audience to see it. As the filmmaker, as well, you know what you’re getting yourself into, and you’ll do your damndest to make this person look good.
That being said.
I’m not the same as every other casting director, so what I’m about to say isn’t true across the board.
I want to do work that I’m proud of. Of course I want butts in seats on opening weekend, but more than that – I want people to walk out of the theater going “damn. That was a good movie” or “holy shit that made me think!” I find that a good movie has a longer impact than a high-grossing movie, and for my career overall – I hope to look back on all my projects with pride.
Therefore – I could give a shit how many people follow you on Twitter. If you’re right for the role, I’m going to champion you whether you have twenty followers or twenty million. I care about the work you do as an actor, not the quality of the photos you post on Instagram. I want the product – the film, the series, whatever it is – to be the best it can be.
Realistically speaking, though – at the end of the day, social media is a platform. If you have a large following, if you’re popular, it does mean I may see you and become aware of you. I may not have learned of your existence through other avenues, but when a friend of mine likes a funny video on Facebook, and I discover someone I’ve never seen before, I may wonder about their potential as an actor.
If I discover someone I never knew before, and they just so happen to be perfect for a role I’m working on – that’s the best-case scenario, right? A great product, that gets a boost by your social media following.
As a platform, it grants opportunities in a new way, purely because access is more universal. If you’re not a writer, though, it’s hard to put forth a product that goes viral.
To that I have to say – don’t focus on developing a huge following more than honing your skills as an actor. If you have a huge following, purely from a business sense, that opens doors. It creates opportunities. But if you don’t have the skills or capability to take advantage of those opportunities, then what’s the point?
Yes – at the end of the day, my ideal situation is to use a social media following to the advantage of the project. But frankly, if you suck as an actor – that does more damage to a project than whatever advantages your social following brings. So focus on the acting first. Work on the quality of work you’re providing. Pay attention to the feedback and response you’re getting. If you have time on the side – sure. Up your social media presence. But just keep in mind at the end of the day that having a social media following is not a skill of an actor. It is a platform that provides advantages and opportunities, in a business sense. Same as having an agent, or a great headshot. It’s not something that will stop you from getting a job. It’s something that can help you further your career, if the product you’re providing is high quality.
The necessity of social media is a gray area. And unfortunately, every person you talk to, will give you a different answer on whether or not it’s important. They can’t give you a straight answer, because it has a different level of importance in every situation. All I can say, is while the need for a social presence changes from project to project, your skills as an actor are vital to every project. So work on those first.
Really interesting – thanks Claire! I like your take on it, to put first things first.